New Orleans Mayor Ditches Casino Plan

Mayor Ray Nagin (search) said Wednesday he is abandoning his proposal to create a downtown casino district as a way of revitalizing the city's shattered economy, bitterly complaining of resistance from politicians around the state.

"We have the most significant challenge of any city in American history and they are dismissing ideas ad nauseam," Nagin said during the reopening of the landmark Cafe Du Monde coffee stand in the French Quarter (search). "Nobody is coming up with better ideas or alternative ideas, and it's really kind of teeing me off."

Nagin had proposed allowing hotels with at least 500 rooms in a downtown district to offer casino gambling in the hurricane-devastated city.

But Gov. Kathleen Blanco (search) refused to put the idea on the agenda for next month's special legislative session. The Senate president said it had little chance of passage.

Also, watchdog groups criticized Nagin for floating the idea before getting citizen reaction. And members of the mayor's own recovery commission expressed concern about expanding gambling.

"We act like we're virgins as it relates to gaming," Nagin said Wednesday. "We have cockfighting in this state. We have bingo everywhere in doggone religious organizations. We have casinos. We have riverboats, we have lotteries. We have everything under the sun and now we act like, `Oh my God, we can't do that."'

Harrah's Entertainment Inc., which already runs a casino in New Orleans under a state-granted monopoly, said it was glad that Nagin had dropped the idea.

"I knew it was kind of a long shot, I guess, but it was worth looking into," said Dan King, general manager of the downtown Sheraton. "I guess we'll save that for another day."